The State Of Things

Does it matter that the upper reaches of the singles chart are becalmed and have been for weeks? Who is it harming really?

The question rears its ugly head every time we hit one of these periods, when the biggest hits remain the biggest hits for what appears to be weeks on end. And I'm sure I must have addressed this debate on any number of occasions over the past few years. On the face of it yes, of course it matters. For decades we've relied on the charts to illustrate the vibrancy of the popular music "scene", the fact that music fans are on the whole on the search for the new and the interesting. A sales-only market always reflected that. You only buy a record once, and if you have new money to spend a week later you go buy something else. Thus the wheels of the music industry turned.

But streaming means the charts are no longer under the control of just "music fans". They are beholden to the tastes of everyone else. The people who just like to listen, and like to listen to what they know. But this does mean that a streaming-dominated chart properly reflects what is truly popular. The sounds people want to hear the most. While this does mean that things can appear enormously stale very quickly, the biggest hits actually end up bigger than ever before, by dint of their sheer longevity.

I've mentioned this point in any number of press and media interviews I've done over the years. When Pick Of The Pops grabs a year from say, 1997 through to 2007 it can be an awkward listen. Numerous instances of "wow, I really don't remember this one at all", which kind of defeats the purpose of a golden oldies show. The frantically paced charts of the time means that songs had the shelf life of a mayfly, in and out in an instant even if the record books do show that they were a Top 10 or Top 5 hit. A retrospective radio show dealing with the hits of the early 2020s will feature a large number of song that everyone knows and remembers. Simply because they were part of popular culture for such a long time.

I'm not completely sure that is a bad thing.

The Full Harry

The above rant was brought to you in association with "this week's chart" which for the most part is as moribund as the last few. So let's break format slightly and take the biggest hits in turn, note how long they've been around and what their prospects are.

1) Harry Styles - As It Was

The reigning incumbent, now five weeks at the summit and still apparently untouchable. He isn't going to surrender his crown this side of ACR to any existing hits, although the continuing downward spiral of his sales (he's down for the fourth week on the bounce) means Harry is vulnerable to the arrival of another big name with an instantaneous smash.

2) Jack Harlow - First Class

It is also a fourth consecutive week at No.2 for Jack Harlow, the kind of feat that would once have been considered incredibly unusual but which is just par for the course now for any sizable hit with the misfortune to be stranded behind one even bigger. His sale of 43,438 remains some considerable distance (18k or so) behind those of Mr Styles. And he now has a Cat snapping (scratching?) at his heels.

3) Cat Burns - Go

No move this week for Cat Burns, her single at the very least the current poster child for proof that hits can actually grow from tiny acorns into mighty oaks. This is now Go's 15th week as a Top 75 hit, her own odyssey beginning with four weeks stuck between 45 and 48 with the track looking like it was destined never to even make the Top 40. The fact that it is now comfortably lodged in the Top 3 is a testament to the hard work that has been put in.

4) Dave - Starlight

The former No.1 single actually climbs back up a place in what is now its 9th week as a chart single, all of which have been spent in the Top 5. There's nothing too significant about this move, all it has done is swap places with the long-running rival below it. But with the hit now about to hit the 10-week mark it means its ACR clock can finally be run down - even if that isn't set to happen for the moment.

5) Aitch/Ashanti - Baby

The other half of March's duopoly, Aitch the Jack Harlow to Dave's Harry Styles, debuting a week later than its rival but ultimately never able to climb further than No.2. Aitch has another new entry this week, although Just Coz, a duet with Giggs is a more low key promotional release and makes an almost half-hearted bow at No.42.

6) Fireboy DML/Ed Sheeran - Peru

2022's longest-lasting hit to date. Peru has now spent 19 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 without ever once dipping below No.6. Indeed this is now its fourth consecutive week at this position, equalling an all-time record presently held by Don't Let Me Down by Chainsmokers (2016), Sorry by Joel Corry (2019) and Tobacco Road by The Nashville Teens (1964).

7) Camila Cabello/Ed Sheeran - Bam Bam

Funny isn't it how Ed Sheeran has two simultaneous Top 10 hits right now, neither of which are his own. Now nine weeks old Bam Bam edges up to another brand new peak after a fortnight stranded at No.8. Another example of how hits can grow if they are given time, the much-hyped single only entered at No.22 which at the time this column branded a little underwhelming. I now consider myself very much whelmed. Yes, that's a thing.

8) Future featuring Drake and Tems - Wait 4 U

A new entry! The first single to enter the charts directly into the Top 10 since Jack Harlow did three weeks ago. Nayvadius Wilburn (to give him his real handle) has believe it or not charted with no fewer than 17 singles prior to today although you will be hard pressed to find anyone who can name more than one. That one is most probably Life Is Good which peaked at No.3 in early 2020 and perhaps had the good fortune to exit the upper reaches of the charts at the precise moment that life stopped being "good". The track arrives on the chart simultaneously with his ninth album Never Liked You which is this week's No.2, the highest charting release of his career.

9) Belters Only featuring Jazzy - Make Me Feel Good

We are back with another long-runner, one which appears to finally be burning itself out but which is probably waiting for ACR to finally kill it off. Make Me Feel Good actually climbs a place this week after briefly threatening to drop out of the Top 10 for the first time since early February. Instead this is now the single's 14th week in the upper reaches. So yes, we are probably all a bit over-familiar with it.

10) Jax Jones/MNEK - Where Did You Go

Another long-running pop/dance hit, although this one has only been lingering for the past nine weeks in the Top 10. Where Did You Go was another hit that grew from small beginnings, charting first week out at No.40 and taking another three to even reach the Top 20. But it has found its level and stayed there for two months, never once climbing higher than No.7.

And that is the current Top 10. None of them are necessarily what you would call "rubbish". All of them fine pop singles, all of them there on their merits. But they have been around forever. And there's no danger of anyone failing to recall them when they pop up on Pick Of The Pops sometime in 2032.

Juice Loose About This Hoose

The stark difference between "not being on core playlists" and "being on them" is spotlighted this week by the rather dramatic surge in fortunes of About Damn Time by Lizzo. The comeback single from the effervescent American star debuted at No.60 a fortnight ago only to sink seven places last week. This time around? It has a rocket up its sizable booty, soaring to No.15 to become at a stroke the second-biggest hit of her career. Only 2019's Good As Hell charted higher, that one reaching No.7 after some considerable effort. But this disco-inspired banger surely has to do better. Surely.

Welcome To The New Age

Sometimes you have to just take the plunge. American teenager Benson Boone was on the cusp of what some might call a golden opportunity, others a poison chalice, when he passed the first auditions for the 2021 season of American Idol. But he never showed for Hollywood week, pulling out in the hope of making it in his own right and building on the success he had built for himself on TikTok. So far it has paid off, his signing to Imagine Dragons' own Night Street Records the first step towards what looks like proper credible mainstream success. After reaching No.46 with his chart debut Ghost Town at the tail end of last year he now has a certified Top 40 hit with In The Stars which smashes its way to No.21.

Mopping Up

Blossoms have the No.1 album this week Ribbon Around The Bomb, their third chart-topping record and effectively their second in a row following Foolish Loving Spaces in 2020. That's if you overlook lockdown live album In Isolation which made No.5 later that same year.

This has been a column of hope and expectation. So I'll sign off with the news that Big Energy is still climbing, now up to No.28. All good things come to those who wait. You'll see.